What on Earth were the Eagles thinking on disastrous 4th-quarter drive?

What on Earth were the Eagles thinking on disastrous 4th-quarter drive? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

If there was ever a situation where they had to be aggressive, this was it.

They had no choice.

And what we saw? I’m not sure exactly what it was but it sure as heck wasn’t aggressive.

After an unsuccessful Cards onsides kick, with the game tied at 28, the Eagles found themselves with a 1st-and-10 on the Cards’ 39-yard-line with 5 ½ minutes left in the game Sunday.

What an opportunity to finally end the Cards’ upset bid and put the game away.

The Cards had just scored three touchdowns on consecutive drives of 75, 77 and 77 yards and doing it with virtually no resistance from the Eagles’ defense.

So anybody watching that game knew the Eagles’ only real shot to beat the Cards Sunday at the Linc was to score a touchdown on that late 4th-quarter drive and then hope to either win it with a Jake Elliott field goal in the final seconds. Or maybe win it in overtime.

But you knew a field goal was courting disaster. Everybody in the stadium knew it.

Almost everybody.

Nick Sirianni always talks about being aggressive.

Here’s a chance to do it with so much on the line, including an NFC East title, playoff seeding and pride.

A 20-yard Hurts pass to A.J. Brown got the Eagles down to the Cards’ 20 with 4:13 left. And that’s when disaster struck and the Eagles’ offense turned into a passive, mushy, sloppy, muddled mess.


First-and-20: Hurts sort of scrambled out to his right and didn’t really have anywhere to go. Four-yard gain.

Second-and-16: Hurts sort of scrambled out to his right and didn’t really have anywhere to go. Three-yard loss.

Third-and-19: Screen pass to Kenny Gainwell. Four-yard gain.

Fourth-and-15: Field goal.

You know what happened next.

The Cards inevitably drove 70 yards for another TD in two minutes, took a 35-31 lead and handed the Eagles their fourth loss in five games and their first loss as a favorite of at least 12 points since 2011 – and a 21-17 loss to the Cards at the Linc.

Hurts was asked if thought the Eagles should have been more aggressive in that situation, and he paused for a moment and then said this:

“I would like to do whatever works. I think, again, it is result based. We live and die on whatever we go out there and do. That particular opportunity, it didn’t get us where we wanted in the end. But it’s tough to be in that situation. … You get the holding call and you kind of go backwards and (you want to) get enough yardage in those first two downs to put ourselves in a good situation.

“So, you know, they give us the ball inside of the 50 and we just have to handle and execute and manage that situation a lot better.”

Once the Eagles got down to the Arizona 20, they ran four plays – all of which went sideways. There was nothing down the field. Nothing vertical. Nothing that had a remote chance to help the Eagles score the touchdown they had to have .

For the record, Sirianni claimed the Eagles didn’t get conservative in that situation and did pretty much confirm the Eagles were just trying to get a few extra yards to make it an easier kick for Elliott.

It almost seemed like the Eagles’ offensive coaches didn’t realize how bad the defense was playing and for some reason thought they were going to get a stop.

They weren’t going to get a stop, and the offense needed to operate with an understanding of how porous the defense had been.

Here’s Sirianni’s explanation:

“I don’t think that’s conservative there if they are blitzing a bunch of gaps there,” Sirianni said post-game. “You’re running a gap scheme that has a chance to hit for big yards that we needed to get back into it. We could have thrown it there, too. We chose to go there.

“Hey, it didn’t hit. But I think that sometimes with the gap scheme stuff that you do, it’s more of, you’ve got to do some different things to cancel out gaps if they are bringing everything out. So that’s why we went that way. It didn’t work.”

It didn’t work? It didn’t have a chance.

And the screen to Gainwell? It’s not like the Eagles have gotten much mileage out of screens this year. That play was doomed from the time the ball was snapped.

“The screen, we were third and, what was it (19)?,” he said. “That’s tough. You’re going to have a hard time converting. We’ve got to get ourselves into range.

“The wind was blowing into our face a little bit on that side earlier in the game, so we needed to get into better range to make sure we took a three-point lead there. And, hey, they went down and scored and we didn’t win the game.”

For the record, the Eagles converted a 3rd-and-20 six days earlier with a spectacular Hurts throw to A.J. Brown.

This week, they didn’t even try.

One thing is certain: You’re not going to get the ball down the field if you don’t at least try to get the ball down the field.

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